Development of a Middle School Online Science Curriculum: Lessons Learned From a Design-Based Research Project

Development of a Middle School Online Science Curriculum: Lessons Learned From a Design-Based Research Project

Fatima E. Terrazas-Arellanes, Lisa A. Strycker, Emily D. Walden, Carolyn Knox
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0238-9.ch014
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Design-based research methodology was used to guide a line of research to develop, implement, revise, and evaluate the ESCOLAR online science curriculum for middle school students, including general education students, English language learners (ELs) primarily of Hispanic origin, and students with high-incidence learning disabilities (LD). The iterative research approach was carried out in three stages with multiple steps per stage: (1) Stage 1, or informed exploration, identified and described the problem under investigation; (2) Stage 2, or enactment, redesigned previously developed online science units, implemented each unit in case studies, and completed a feasibility evaluation; and (3) Stage 3, or evaluation of local impact, documented the efficacy of the science curriculum with a randomized controlled trial. The present chapter focuses on the second and third stages, demonstrating the process by which the ESCOLAR curriculum was repeatedly refined with input from stakeholders, and then examined for feasibility of implementation, usefulness in helping teachers engage with students, and efficacy in deepening student science knowledge. Data were drawn from multiple sources, including teacher logs, student and teacher surveys, web analytics, student notebooks, content assessments, and focus groups. Results indicate that the ESCOLAR curriculum was feasible to implement, useful, and effective, and may now be adopted as an evidence-based intervention to enhance science learning among diverse students. The data-driven, design-based research methodology proved to be a practical framework, and underscored the critical importance of considering all stakeholders in the process of curriculum design, refinement, and evaluation. This chapter offers a model for the development of constructivist science instructional materials for ELs and students with LD using online, multimedia technology.
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Literature Review

Academic Achievement of ELs and Students With LD

Nationwide, ELs comprise 9.5% of the K-12 student body, with rates ranging from 1% in West Virginia to 21% in California; rates overall have increased since 2000 (U.S. Department of Education, 2018). In the U.S., most (77.1%) ELs have a home language of Spanish or Castilian, comprising over 3.5 million U.S. students. U.S. Department of Education statistics for 2015-16 indicate that 6.7 million students were eligible for special education in the U.S., about 14% of the K-12 population; across disability categories, learning disabilities were the most prevalent, with 34% of students in special education qualifying (U.S. Department of Education, 2018).

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP; National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2018a; 2018b) shows some recent improvement in science test scores for fourth-, eighth-, and 12th-grade Caucasian, African-American, and Hispanic students. However, achievement gaps remain, particularly with ELs and students with LD (NCES, 2018a; 2018b). Students with LD have poorer science test scores than students without LD. On the NAEP science test, students with LD scored lower on average (131 in fourth grade, 124 in eighth grade), with fewer students at or above the basic level (53% fourth grade, 34% eighth grade), than students without disabilities (157 fourth grade, 158 eighth grade; 79% at or above basic level in fourth grade, 72% in eighth grade) (NCES, 2018a; 2018b). ELs also perform more poorly in science on average (121 fourth grade, 110 eighth grade), with fewer students at or above basic level (41% fourth grade, 19% eighth grade) than English-proficient students (158 fourth grade, 157 eighth grade; 80% at or above basic level in fourth grade, 71% in eighth grade) (NCES, 2018a; 2018b). These results indicate a widening gap between students from elementary through middle school in science. ELs also experience lower graduation rates from high school (66.9%), as do students with LD (65.5%), compared to the overall U.S. graduation rate of 84.1% (NCES, 2016).

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